June 03, 2019

5 Silent Symptoms That May Indicate Heart Disease

Heart disease symptoms don’t always show up in in-your-face. Sometimes there are subtle signs of heart failure that can go undiagnosed for extended periods of time.

If you experience any notable symptoms of a heart attack, get to an emergency department immediately. Symptoms may include: 

  • Chest pain
  • Pain that radiates to the jaw 
  • Sweating without cause
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

How Do You Know If You Have Heart Problems?

Heart disease starts well before a heart attack, and if you’re aware of changes in your body, you might be able to address the early warning signs of heart failure before you have an emergency.

Some 15-20% experience silent heart attacks and not the expected crippling chest pain that is often warned about. A silent heart attack happens when less obvious heart attack symptoms either isn’t felt or aren’t recognized. These silent heart attacks often go undiagnosed until the patient’s next routine electrocardiogram (EKG) and sometimes are not diagnosed until after the patient experienced a second, more serious heart attack.

What Are the Early Signs of Heart Problems and Silent Heart Attacks?

The problem is that many of the subtle signs of heart problems and silent heart attacks are not specific to that condition, says cardiologist Michael Faulkner, MD, with the Baptist Health Medical Group in Paducah.

“Practically every patient I see will have one of these symptoms,” he says. Most often, the cause is not a problem with a heart — but sometimes it is. So if you experience any of the following, bring it to your provider’s attention.”

5 Heart Problem Symptoms, You Shouldn’t Ignore

  1. Fatigue. A lack of energy can be a sign of heart disease. But it also can be a sign of countless other issues, from jet lag and overwork to medical conditions such as anemia.“Lots of people blow off fatigue as just getting old, but if they notice a loss of stamina it might be indicative of a heart issue,” Dr. Faulkner says. If you remain tired for an extended period or if you can’t do things you used to do, mention the fatigue to your doctor, he says. Fatigue can also be caused by sleep apnea, a condition that’s related to cardiovascular disease.
  2. Erectile dysfunction. Difficulty getting or keeping an erection is not uncommon in men with heart disease, Dr. Faulkner says, because the penis may not get enough blood. That’s why men who seek treatment for erectile dysfunction should be screened for a cardiovascular disease first, and men dealing with ED should tell their doctors.
  3. Leg or hip pain when walking. Someone with heart disease may experience pain while walking. The pain could be caused by a narrowing of the arteries that can limit oxygen flow to the tissue. People with diabetes are especially likely to experience this symptom as an early sign of heart disease.
  4. Dizziness. An abnormality in the heart’s rhythm, which causes it to beat too fast or too slow, can cause dizziness. While heart rhythm abnormalities are not generally related to blocked arteries, disturbances in the heart’s electrical system is a type of heart disease.
  5. Swelling. A fluid that builds up in the feet, ankles, and legs can be a sign of heart trouble. “Patients with advanced congestive heart failure may be prone to increased fluid retention in the legs due to high pressures within the heart,” Dr. Faulkner says. Often it’s a sign of venous insufficiency, in which blood does not flow back to the heart properly.

When meeting with a patient who shows early signs of heart failure, Dr. Faulkner does a workup that includes a medical history and an assessment of heart disease risk. He may also order a screening electrocardiogram (EKG) and a stress test, a timed workout on a treadmill to monitor the heart’s performance.

“If you have any of these symptoms, don’t worry,” Dr. Faulkner says. “But do tell your doctor.”

Learn More About Early Signs of Heart Failure with Baptist Health

Baptist Health’s highly skilled physicians and staff offer a progressive approach to heart care and the prevention and treatment of coronary artery and vascular disease, heart failure, and heart rhythm disorders. If you have experienced subtle symptoms of heart problems, contact the Baptist Health Heart Care team today to schedule an appointment.

Learn More.